Started putting the boat back together today. I had an epiphany at work today – what if water came through the vent in the back of the cowling when it was on the beach? I pulled the cowling tonight and it looked okay in there. I got some electric parts spray and hogged down the engine. I put new terminal ends on the electric leads, and hooked them up to the battery. The hydralic lift worked and the outboard turned over. The electronics did not work yet but I think the ground may be at fault so I’ll track that down tomorrow. Damn, this stuff is hard when it’s failing daylight my eyes are 52. I pulled the boat out of the garage, hooked up the earmuffs to the outboard, turned on the garden hose, and cranked the engine. It started right up. I ran it for 1/2 an hour to get it hot and dry it out. Everything seemed great. I’ll continue tackling the electronics tomorrow but a big relief that the outboard appears just fine.
Matt and I went deer hunting Saturday. The plan was to hunt Admiralty across from the cabin. However, when we got there, the wind was not good to anchor the boat or even putt-putt a little boat over from Horse Island to our favorite spot. I dropped Matt at a sheltered spot across from Horse Island, and as I was anchoring the boat, another boat came by and said they were duck hunting where we intended to cross to deer hunt, so we moved further north to another fairly protected anchorage. The wind was blowing about 20 kts, and this anchorage was protected, but not really great. I dropped off Matt, putted out, dropped anchor with plenty of scope, and paddled back in to shore in the punt. The wind was blowing on shore, and I figured if the boat drug anchor, it would just beach itself. We headed up the hill. This area is really flat with muskeg after muskeg with few trees in between. By later in the day, it was clear the deer were not in these muskegs in this weather. We headed down the hill looking forward to hunting in better weather somewhere else tomorrow. When we got to the beach, no boat. The wind was still blowing onto the beach. We looked all the way down the beach for as far as we could see – which was probably a mile and a half as we were on one side of this big wide cove that had a river at the head of it. No boat. We couldn’t understand what had happened. We did know that there was a cabin in the woods where we came out so we would have a place to hole up for the night. We called Sara, Jeff, Chris M. and Kurt and made plans for a pickup and search for the boat the next day. Sara called the Coast Guard, who put out a notice on the radio to look for our boat. We called the owner’s number on the cabin, and left a message. When I talked to Chris, he knew the guy, having gone to high school with him, and also knew his best friend who used the cabin. Chris called the friend to let him know we were staying there. The Coast Guard called as well, wanting to know we were safe for the night and we assured them we were. Matt used to be a handyman carpenter, so he found that he could pull the molding off one of the windows to get in the cabin. While in there, he found a leatherman with a phillips screw driver, which he passed out to me. I was able to remove the lock hasp and get the door open. Matt then replaced with window pane and molding. There was a wood stove with dry wood and kindling and we had a fire going in no time. We surveyed the food and drink. Plenty of beer. Cookies. Chips. I told Matt we should stay til Monday. We dried out and I was asleep by 7. We were up at a phone call the next morning with Jeff saying our friend Todd was bringing Jeff over in Todd’s big 24 foot boat, so Matt and I cleaned up the place, screwed the lock back in place, and headed to the beach. It was almost flat calm and no rain. There was a brief moment of sunlight, and I saw a shiny object on the other side of the cove. I looked through my scope, and there was our boat. How we didn’t see it yesterday, neither of us could comprehend. Until the sun went behind a cloud again and it seemingly disappeared. Matt said the big white caps may also have hidden it. What a relief. When Todd and Jeff arrived, we ran up the beach to our boat. It had beached itself, and still had the anchor line attached, so it had drug anchor. The tide was flooding and already near the boat. The boat was full of water, as waves must have come over the stern. There was no power to the bilge pump as the battery was under sea water. So, I pulled the plug and also started bailing by hand to try to get the boat empty before the tide was up to the drain hole. Our gear was strewn on the beach, as it must have floated when the boat swamped. The engines looked fine, though, as I’d thought to put the big engine up when I anchored so it was not damaged. Incredibly, the hull was not damaged at all, either. I’ll need to contact the maker of Grayling boats in Anchorage to let him know. I got the boat drained. The tide was at 10:09 and at about 940, the boat started to rock a little so starting to float. I was confident at 8 am that the tide would be plenty high to float it, but now was getting worried. At about 945 I was able to move the bow around but the boat seemed to be high centered on a rock near the stern. I moved the boat back and forth, pushing and pulling the bow. I tried pushing at the engine but could not move the boat. Finally, at about 950 I worked it free. I’d tied a line to the front cleat so that when I did free it, Jeff could pull it off to their boat anchored up about 100 feet off shore. Jeff pulled it over and I got in the punt and paddled out to Todd’s boat. It was an uneventful tow back to the dock, where my truck awaited. With a flat tire. A rock had punctured the tire somehow, and was still embedded in it. Matt had his vehicle there and we went home to get one of the winter studded tires and a big jack to make things easy. Sara had grub ready so we ate a bite and had some coffee. Back to the truck, and I got 7 of the 8 nuts off. Of course, number 8 would not break free, and was a bit rounded so the 4-way wrench kept slipping off the nut. Back to the house for my big socket and more tools. This time, it broke free. When I went to put the studded tire on, it would not go over the big rear hub. Must be I only used it on the front where there’s a small hub or I’d know this. So, we hoped the spare under the truck would work. I crawled under and it had air – probably filled it when I drove up to Whittier to buy this boat a couple years ago. We got it down from the hangar, and it looked checked on the side but good. It held air when we let the jack down. We went home and mucked out all the wet gear on the boat. I bought a new battery and new battery connector ends for the wiring and will get that up and hopefully running this week, as we have a moose hunt planned in two weeks that we’ll need the boat for. Turns out that the cabin owner works on my floor here at work. I must know his face, but not his name. And, he had a job that Matt had after he left over at Health and Social Services. And, Todd knows the cabin owner who had the hunting party that we moved away from and had taken a buck there just last week. Seems like it’s always this way here, where strangers really aren’t.
After I pitted the cherries from Haines last week, I put them in colendars to catch the juice like I do for salmon berries. This makes vac packing the berries easier without so much liquid. I thought I’d try my first batch of jelly ever. I’ve made tons of jam, but never tried jelly. I had 10.5 cups of cherry juice. I added 15 tsp of lemon juice and 11 tbs of no sugar ball pectin according to the Ball website recipe. I bought this to a rolling boil, added 1 cup of sugar, and boiled another minute, then put the jelly in 13 half pint jars and canned it in a boiling bath. The bottom of one of the jars broke, so I lost a 1/2 pint of jelly. Crap. I had 1/2 a pint extra of the jelly, and put that in a little plastic cup. It looked like it was going to set up great when I put it in the fridge. It was set up a few hours later, and tasted freakin’ excellent.
Andrew, Samuel and Gloria came over to help package the salmon tonight. I pulled each fish from the flake ice, rinsed the ice off, cut it into steaks, and put the steaks in a colendar basket. The Contehs put the pieces in the vac pack bags and ran the packer. Didn’t take all that long at all with so many hands. After we finished, I helped Gloria with a class project by teaching her several knots – bolen, blood knot, and others I don’t know the names of. Gloria will graduate from high school this year, and her expatriate family in the lower 48 will attend so now we know there will be salmon for them as with the low king salmon returns, finding salmon in May can be tough. I vac packed the cherries I’d pitted on the ferry, and bagged up 8 cups of juice, too. After the Contehs left, I pitted the rest of the cherries. Ellen called earlier on her way to moose camp north of Delta with Brian and Howard, and said she’d love some cherries so I’ll get plenty to her on her way back.
Ron and I went on our annual subsistence sockeye salmon fishing trip to Haines over Labor Day. I picked up ice at the fish processor the day before. I picked up Ron at 5 am on Monday and we drove out to the ferry office. We picked up our tickets, then drove to our assigned lane to get on the ferry. Lots of people heading to Haines. Some to go moose hunting up north. Others likely ending their seasonal jobs and driving home either north or south from Haines. The Chilkat River had been behind in reaching its escapement goal early in the season, but then things picked up late and escapement was okay. So we thought we might get lucky with these late fish. It was a flat calm ride to Haines. The weather is still warm. In the 60s. Also on board were 3 retired biologists from ADF&G who Ron had worked with. I knew them all. Lots of stories over breakfast. They’ve been moose hunting together for decades and this was not our first year coincidentally traveling with them on the same ferry to Haines. We arrived at Roy’s house, hooked up the trailer, and headed for the river. Ron had tied up a new net using an old commercial net and we were excited to try it. We got to the river by 2 pm. The fall colors of the cotton woods was spectacular- yellows and reds – with that cottonwood smell wafting about. And no one else was on the river. The Chilkat River and its valley are among my favorite places in Alaska. We got 6 sockeye in each of our first two drifts. Ron ran the boat and I fished the net. Then only two more on subsequent drifts so we called it a day at 14 fish. We broke a gill on each fish and placed them in a tote of water to bleed out. Then I rinsed each fish and placed them in a cooler with ice to keep till we could get back to Roy to clean them. We dressed the fish at Roys and iced them. I then started cherry picking. Roy and Brenda had not picked at all this year, so this was the first year I could mostly pick the low hanging berries from the ground without a ladder. I picked till nearly dark and got about 4 gallons. Brenda is a great cook, and made us dinner of halibut, beets from their garden, and rice. We got up first thing the next morning and were at the river not too long after sunrise. No one else on the river. We got 8 keepers our first pass. Seven the next. And 6 sockeye and a coho the next. The last pass we got a bunch of spawning sockeye and chums so we called it a day. Ron thought maybe others had been fishing before us the day before and that was why it was slower. I doubted that, but later on the ferry I heard others saying they’d been fishing so realized Ron was probably right. We were back to Roy’s late in the morning. We did the same routine as Monday. We pressure bled and dressed all the fish, then put them in the ice. I resumed cherry picking and got several more gallons. At some point I realized I wasn’t going to pick all the cherries and had picked most of the easier ones I could get up to with Roy’s little step ladder, so called it a year. I took the fish guts to the river, dropped off our fishing permits with the fish totals to ADF&G in Haines, then went to the ferry terminal to get my lane assignment. When I got back to Roy’s, Ron was packed up and ready to go. We got lunch at the Bamboo Room. As usual, the waitress was exceptionally pleasant like the rest of Haines. We had time to kill before meeting the ferry so we drove up to Chilkoot Lake. I’d never been out there. After seeing no concentration of people much in Haines, after a several mile drive out the road, we found a crowd of people on the Chilkoot River. They were standing right in the road, taking photos. Must be bears somewhere. Sure enough, at the fish counting weir, a sow and two big cubs were doing their thing with the salmon. There were people everywhere, except for a buffer zone on either side of the weir. And unlike the rest of the roads around Haines, this one was in terrible condition, with pot holes everywhere. This place is begging for a bear viewing stand to get people off the road for safer crowd control and a better experience for the viewers. The gawkers really had no other place to stand with a tiny shoulder off the road that slid off to the river. I knew the ferry was booked solid with vehicles so wasn’t sure if I wanted to pit cherries on the way home. I parked the truck, then went up and saw what kind of crowd was on board. It was pretty full, but not too bad, so I went down and grabbed a pile of cherries and the pitter. I pitted all the cherries in a few hours, and really liked the pitter. As always, people like to stop and chat about cherries and the season and Haines. When I got home and tried a few cherries, I realized many still had the pits in them. The pitter was not getting all of them. So I will have to squeeze them when I package them to see if I can detect pits and then be careful eating the pies or jam when I get to making something from them. So, 35 sockeye, a big coho and 5+ gallons of cherries in 24 hours in Haines, America. Already looking forward to next year.
Jeff took me fishing today in the channel. The south end of the channel is right across from our house. The north end is out near where we launch our boat. We got there about 2 hours after low tide in our chest waders with spinning gear. You can wade across the channel at that time. As the tide continues to flood, you look north and here come the cohos with the tide. First you see them jumping a 1/3 of a mile away, then a 1/4 mile, and soon they are jumping where you are as the tide floods. We cast Pixie spoons, tee-spoon spinners, and a sort of vibrax spinner. I caught 1 big one, 1 smaller jack, and lost 3. It’s over in about 2 hours. The tide moves you back towards the woods and the fish just seem to quit biting. That’s something I haven’t done in a long, long time. And good exercise, too. Much better than the 12 ounce curls and junk food eating you do on the boat. A good hike and even better hike out if you catch fish and are carrying them out, too. It is a bluebird day here in Juneau. Dry and in the 60’s and the smell off fall in the air. Off to Haines, America tomorrow on the ferry with Ron to Roy and Brenda’s on the annual sockeye subsistence fishing and cherry picking run, so the next shore fishing will have to wait till next weekend.